If you want to stay sane when your kids fight and help everyone learn from the process, you need to do three things:
1. Deal with the immediate situation
2. Recover (let go of all the negative energy you’ve absorbed)
3. Help your kids heal and learn from what happened
Here’s a crockery-smashing example from our family.
I walk into the kitchen, feeling calm after meditating and looking forward to afternoon tea together. My children are arguing loudly about who gets to microwave their cocoa first.
Someone kicks someone else.
I throw myself between them to prevent escalation.
Unable to hit back, the injured child throws a full cup of cocoa across the room and swipes a jugful of milk off the counter as they storm out.
1. Deal with the immediate situation
After checking the kicked child is okay, I spend the next half hour picking up broken china, scrubbing cocoa off cupboards, and mopping the floor.
On the outside I’m completely calm, but I know I’m holding back my emotions until it’s safe to process them.
I put the dirty towels in the washing machine and head for my room.
I tell my kids that I’m going to meditate, and quietly suggest they do something to help them calm, too.
As I begin listening to a guided meditation about relationships, tears begin to flow.
However good your boundaries, it’s difficult to be in the thick of intense negative energy without absorbing some.
I give myself an imaginary hug as the soothing words of the meditation wash over me.
Fifteen minutes later I’m feeling much calmer. But when I imagine talking with my children about the incident, I feel stressed again. I need to be fully regulated if I want to help my kids process and learn from what happened.
I decide to use a technique I’ve used many times with clients, my children and on myself.
The Fast Phobia Cure works by recoding the way the brain stores a traumatic event in our memory. It’s more complicated to explain that it is to do, so I won’t go through all the steps now, but if you’re interested leave me a comment and I’ll share the process in a separate post. In the meantime, these instructions are the clearest I’ve come across (scroll down to How to re-programme your amygdala using NLP).
As I use the Fast Phobia Cure, I check in with myself to see how triggered I feel when I think about the fight. After cycling through the process four times, I can barely summon any negative emotion, but I’m left with a slight heaviness in my chest.
I’m on a roll now, so I tune into the heavy feeling and ask myself which direction it’s moving in. (Emotions are energy, so they can’t stay still.)
I imagine physically removing the feeling from my chest, flipping it over, and replacing it so that it’s spinning in the opposite direction.
As I notice how much better that feels, I imagine the new, positive feeling spinning faster.
I change the colour of the feeling, from inky black to fluffy pink.
I breathe deeply and imagine golden light filling my body.
This whole process takes less than ten minutes, and leaves me feeling better than ever.
I’m ready to talk with my kids.
Note: Meditation and NLP are my go-to healing processes. Your will be different. Do what works for you. 🙂
3. Helping children learn from what’s happened
There is no failure. Only feedback.
Robert G Allen
Every breakdown carries an opportunity for a breakthrough. But first we have to get to a place where we can think.
I sit quietly on the bed of the child who threw the mug. They’ve been looking at cute cat photos. I acknowledge them for doing something to help them get calm. I share the steps I took to feel better.
They say they feel better, but angry tears fill their eyes as they say bitterly, ‘But I’m I not ready to forgive XXX!’
We talk about how forgiveness isn’t about the other person – it’s about choosing to feel better ourselves. ‘Holding onto anger is like taking poison and expecting the other person to get sick.’
We go downstairs. The person who kicked apologises.
The child who was kicked hugs their sibling and says, ‘It’s okay. Anyone else would’ve kicked me a lot sooner. I love you.’
We all smile through our tears at this child’s quirky humour.
Over dinner, we discuss the argument that led up to the fight. Both children realise that it was caused by assumption and miscommunication. We talk about how arguments escalate when our window of stress tolerance is small. We decide to practise non-violent communication techniques soon.
If you have very young children
Don’t worry if your kids are too young to leave unsupervised while you go somewhere peaceful to process your emotions.
Do whatever it takes to stay sane in the moment, and retreat to do the healing work when your kids are in bed or another adult takes over childcare.
The important thing is to reach a point where you can stay authentically regulated while you talk with your children about what happened.
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Things around here are rarely this extreme, but I know we’re not the only ones who experience this level of physical and emotional intensity from time to time.
Let’s not feel shame. Let’s appreciate ourselves for doing the best we can to help our awesome kids manage their intensity.
I feel quite vulnerable writing posts like this, but it’s worth it if it helps even one other person know they’re not alone. We’re all in this together.?
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Photo credit: SilviaP_Design